National Football League: Antrim 0-13 Derry 1-18
Brilliant sunshine, poor football — that was the scene at Casement Park yesterday as Derry defeated Antrim.
But this crucial clash ended in controversy when referee Padráig Hughes sent off two players seconds from the end.
Derry’s Conleith Gilligan and Antrim’s Aaron Douglas pushed each other, fell to the ground and rolled around in the 73rd minute.
Both were ordered from the pitch. Hughes then threw in the ball and blew the final whistle.
Clearly angry with the decisions, Derry manager John Brennan said afterwards: “I feel sorry for the two lads who were sent off at the end.
“They did nothing to deserve it. These boys have trained all year and now could miss the championship. I'll talk to the county board about an appeal but we don't have a great record with appeals.
“I'm pleased enough with the result of the match but we have been pipped for promotion and a place in the divisional final. I'd have liked our boys to have got to Croke Park.”
Overall it was a clean match yet Hughes also showed four yellows and sent off Antrim's Mark Sweeney on a second booking after 20 minutes.
Derry raced out of the blocks at top speed and but for a string of wides would have had the result out of doubt after half an hour. At the break they led by 1-7 to 0-4.
Centre half-forward Caolan O'Boyle blasted home from close range when he was sent through by Paddy Bradley and Martin Donaghy on 19 minutes.
The second half was a poor spectacle with Derry well in control.
So much so, that corner-back Michael Bateson and half-back Gerard O'Kane both got on the scoresheet. Antrim struggled at midfield and even though livewire Tomás McCann and free-taker Paddy Cunningham lofted over scores there was never a danger of the Saffrons winning as they slid back to Division Three.
ANTRIM: C Kerr; K O'Boyle, R Johnston, M Johnston, C Brady, A Healy, C Murray, S Burke; A Gallagher (0-2), T O'Neill (0-1), K Brady, M Sweeney, P Cunningham (0-4, 3f), T McCann (0-4), B Neeson. Subs: S Finch for Neeson (25), D Edwards for Burke (41), M Armstrong (0-1) for O'Neill (47), M Dougan (0-1) for Brady (51), A Douglas 6 for O'Boyle (55).
DERRY: M Conlon; M Bateson (0-1), K McCloy, D McBride, G O'Kane (0-3), B McGoldrick, M Donaghy, PJ McCloskey, M Friel; M Lynch (0-1), C O'Boyle (1-1), C Kielt, SL McGoldrick, P Bradley (0-5), C Gilligan (0-6). Subs: C McGoldrick for Donaghy (43), E Bradley for Friel (56), L Moore for O'Boyle (57), J O'Kane for McCloy (61), D Mullan for Lynch (65).
Referee: P Hughes (Armagh).